Keeping with their promise to not rest till the exit of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, the opposition intensified its protest against the premier in both the National Assembly and Senate on Wednesday.
While Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) senators walked out of the upper house, which they threatened to continue till the prime minister’s resignation, the party’s legislators staged a strong demonstration in the National Assembly.
The premier was once again not present in either house.
National Assembly protest
Gathering around the empty seat of the prime minister, PML-N members raised slogans throughout the session.
While Leader of the Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan did not participate in the protest and instead sat in the back rows, as did Ayaz Amir of the PML-N, other party members were vociferous – particularly the PML-N chief’s nephew, Hamza Shahbaz.
The slogan of “Go, Gilani, Go” continued to echo in the house, as did continued desk-thumping and booklet-tearing by PML-N legislators who once again sported black armbands. Though other opposition groups did not participate in the events, Kashmala Tariq from the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q)’s Likeminded group was seen with PML-N members.
Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza tried to control the proceedings initially, pleading with the legislators to respect the “sanctity of the house”, but was unsuccessful.
However, the proceedings were not adjourned for the next day, and the house did manage to meet again.
Boycott in the Senate
While the PML-N’s senators did not demonstrate, or raise slogans, they did refuse to take part in the proceedings until Prime Minister Gilani steps down from his post.
PML-N leader Raja Zafarul Haq announced the boycott when Senate Chairman Nayyar Husain Bukhari wanted to commence question hour.
“According to the law and constitution, after being convicted, Yousaf Raza Gilani is no longer the prime minister of Pakistan, so until his cabinet is functional, we will not come to parliament,” he said and walked out of the house along with other PML-N senators.
Raja Zafar did not allow his colleagues to chant slogans against the prime minister on the floor.
Some work was done
Aside from, and despite the PML-N’s protestations, there were other issues discussed in parliament on Wednesday.
In the National Assembly, the order of the day had 54 items, including several private member bills, call-to-attention notices, motions, resolutions, presentation of standing committee reports and discussion on several issues of public importance.
Once reassembled after the prayer break, Deputy Speaker Faisal Karim Kundi chaired the proceedings and allowed Khurram Jahangir Wattoo to introduce a bill further to amend the Works of Defence Act 1903.
The deputy speaker dropped over a dozen items from the agenda which were to be moved by the members of opposition but allowed presentation of standing committee reports.
The oft-sabotaged Domestic Violence Bill was once again deferred after Maulana Attaur Rehman of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) suggested that it be sent back the standing committee to incorporate his party’s proposals. Special Advisor to PM, Shehnaz Wazir Ali supported the idea of introducing a bill with consensus but the delay offended Dr Donia Aziz who left the house in protest. “If you will not let us introduce our bills, we can also protest,” she said, addressing the chair.
Over in the Senate, JUI-F’s Moulana Abdul Ghafur Haidri also walked out over the recent drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal area along with members of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Haidri said that the US neither respects Pakistan’s sovereignty nor Parliament’s recommendations.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh laid out the State Bank of Pakistan’s second quarterly report for the year 2011-12 on the state of Pakistan’s economy before the Senate. A motion was also moved by Law Minister Farooq H Naek.
The Senate also unanimously passed a resolution strongly condemning the desecration of the Holy Quran by a US Pastor Terry Jones. The resolution was moved by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Farhatullah Babar. The resolution urged the UN secretary-general to play his role for promotion of cultural and religious harmony.
PPP lawmaker Raza Rabbani suggested the government nationalise KESC and also termed the reported idea of privatising Pakistan Railways as ‘unfortunate’.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2012.